The cost of housing is a matter of concern for many Americans. According to studies, some 21 million Americans are now spending so much on rent that they have to cut back even on essentials like food and medical care or try to increase their income with part-time jobs. However, they remain at a very high risk of being rendered homeless.
The reasons for this sorry state of affairs are several. They include government apathy, racial discrimination, myopic zoning policies, lack of renter-friendly rules, and limited opportunities for cheap mortgages for low-income people. Because the problem is so dire, you need to take multi-pronged actions simultaneously to make a significant dent in the situation. Some policies that have the potential for ending the housing inequality:
Building More and Smaller Homes
Even though 40% of the homes in the U.S. are three-bedroom homes, only 20% of Americans live in them. However, even though as many as 28% of people are single and live alone, many neighborhoods do not permit the construction of apartments that would have allowed more people to reside more affordably. This kind of exclusionary zoning allowed segregation even after it was banned in housing, observes Maxwell Drever.
Some cities like Seattle, Portland, and Austin now allow the construction of multi-unit buildings in less densely populated areas. A survey has revealed that half the voters support the idea of a national policy on the development of multi-family properties.
Creating More Affordable Housing
While encouraging the development of smaller and more numerous homes will help to a great extent to resolve the housing crisis, according to studies, around seven million Americans will still not be able to afford them. There must be significant investment in the construction of affordable housing by the government and non-profits, the cost of which is not linked to the market.
Even though idealistic, it is a concept that finds good support by voters, with 60% of them saying that they would support a policy for more public and non-profit housing schemes.
Subsidy to Renters in Crisis
The two earlier proposals focused on increasing the number of housing units, which is great when there is a severe shortage. However, there are over 21 million people with high rental burdens who continually face the threat of eviction due to non-payment of rent. A monthly cash subsidy can help to address this danger for the vulnerable renters, recommends Maxwell Drever. The subsidy can kick in once a renter pays over 30% of his income and cover the excess amount spent on rent.
There is already some traction on this idea, with Washington D.C. trying to deliver cash assistance to renters on a trial basis to replace the more complicated programs on housing assistance, like Section 8 vouchers. However, since a rent subsidy can have landlords hiking rents arbitrarily, knowing the government will subsidize renters, it can be wise to have a policy limiting the increase in rental over five percent.
These four strategies together can help fight the current housing crisis that threatens to become worse by the day. While many politicians have expressed support for similar ideas, it is likely to be more effective when all come together simultaneously.